Stressed Out (Twenty-One Pilots): iconic anthem of the Millennials.


Rock and pop music in recent decades (since the 1960s) have always had iconic songs and music styles that define the angst and existential concerns of generations that were coming of age when those songs and music styles were popular.   For the Boomers, it was  The Beatles, Jefferson Airplane, or The Who’s “My Generation” or “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” For “Generation Jones” (my own age group) — those straddling the Boom and Gen-X (who were born approximately 1956-1966) — their iconic music was punk rock and the new wave of the early 1980s.   For Gen-X, it was Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” or Alice in Chains’ “Man in a Box.”  For Gen-Y (those straddling Gen-X and Millennials), Green Day’s “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” or Blink 182’s music might be good examples.

What about Millennials? Since 2009 or so, rock music as we knew it seems to have died as a genre, at least on mainstream radio. It’s been usurped by EDM, hip hop influenced R&B, and pure pop.   But there are still a few mainstream bands that retain rock sensibilities (even if they’re not exactly rock) and produce music expressing this generation’s own unique sort of angst.    Twenty-One Pilots — a newish band that mixes elements of hip hop, rock, pop, and EDM — seems to get them best, and of course it doesn’t hurt the bandmembers are themselves Millennials.

I really enjoy the music of 21 Pilots, even though I’m way past Millennial age — in fact I have adult Millennial children.  Their 2015 rap-rocker, “Stressed Out,” I think captures Millennial angst best:  the feelings of pressure to succeed in a society that has made their entry into the adult world so incredibly difficult, coupled with a nostalgic longing to return to the childhood world of fantasy, when adults promised them they could be and do anything they wanted.   The bleak economic reality that faces them as they enter the adult years has proven everything they were promised they could achieve as children was a lie.    “Stressed Out” is an anthem that describes that frustrating experience that– to a lesser degree or another — affects my own kids and all of their friends.   It’s also just a great song, well-crafted, with extremely catchy hooks and very listenable.


7 thoughts on “Stressed Out (Twenty-One Pilots): iconic anthem of the Millennials.

  1. I LOVE this group, Specially the somg they wrote to their suicidal fans. Because they receive soo many letters of fans telling them how life was not worth, they made a song for them.

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  2. As a Boomer appreciating “Rock” music almost from the beginning. I was 8, and heard Rock Around The Clock as an oldie from 1954. There was still some Doo-wop around, and my 1st girl friend, Connie Francis. She had no idea as I was just 8 y/o in 1958. The question is; where does the music take me? From an early era in the late 50’s, and early 60s to the British Invasion in 1963, and on through the early 70s as the music I knew began its’ disappearance in favor of a new generation. While great memories for me, I am finding music has a new worth for me, and defines my youth today. Each generation will move on, evolve. So what’s out there, today? I found Tina Malia featured on Soundscapes (Cable-tv Music Chhannel) via Music Choice. Music is not a vast wasteland. It seems that way because we feel limited to a music genre. Listen to Tina Malia on Youtube. Spread your mind out to take in all music genres available, and you catch some beautiful music just like this regardless of the generation of music you remember.

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    • Unlike many people, I never outgrew my fascination with new music. I still love the oldies from the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s, of course (and each decade brought with it its own unique sound and style, one no better or worse than any other — though I personally like 80s-90s most) — but I also listen to new music. There’s a great independent radio station where I live, that plays intriguing new rock and pop (that you don’t really hear on the radio — though they make exceptions if it’s really good music) as well as older music. I wish every community had such a station, whose playlists aren’t dominated by big corporations telling them what they can and cannot play. People love to stereotype new music as terrible, but that’s only because only the terrible stuff gets any airplay! (and even all of that isn’t that bad).

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  3. Hm…I keep hearing that rock is “dead.” I think people are just listening to the wrong stations. 😛 Rock lives on, on the harder stations–bands like Alice in Chains (still out there), Five Finger Death Punch, Avenged Sevenfold, Sevendust, etc. We have a station in Madison that plays bands like that.

    Of course, in the past couple of years I’ve been listening mostly to another kind of rock (industrial), EBM (mix of electronic and industrial) and darkwave. The stuff on the pop stations is bland. Even the alternative stations have become 90s hits overplayed ad nauseum and a very watered-down version of “alternative.” But no, real rock is not dead. You just have to seek it out. 🙂

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    • I think the phrase, “rock is dead,” is just about people’s general sensibilities. Undoubtedly, someone, somewhere is still making polka music, but it’s not gonna do a lot in the way of influencing society. That’s is clearly an extreme case, but the fact is that Rock music has much reduced impact relative to previous years.

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